American Football Database
American Football Database
John Wilce
File:John Wilce.jpg
Biographical details
Born(1888-05-12)May 12, 1888
Rochester, New York
DiedMay 17, 1963(1963-05-17) (aged 75)
Westerville, Ohio
Playing career
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
Wisconsin (assistant)
Ohio State
Head coaching record
College Football Data Warehouse
Accomplishments and honors
3 Big Ten (1916–1917, 1920)
Amos Alonzo Stagg Award (1959)
College Football Hall of Fame
Inducted in 1954 (profile)

John Woodworth "Jack" Wilce (May 12, 1888 – May 17, 1963)[1] was an American football player and coach, physician, and university professor. He served as the head football coach at Ohio State University from 1913 to 1928, compiling a record of 78–33–9. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach in 1954.

Early years and playing career

Wilce was born in Rochester, New York. He lettered in three sports while attending the University of Wisconsin. In football, Wilce was an all-conference fullback and captain of the 1909 team.

Coaching career

Following his graduation from Wisconsin, Wilce coached high school football in La Crosse, Wisconsin and then became both an assistant football coach and assistant professor of physical education at Wisconsin.

In 1913, Ohio State began play in the Western Conference, later the Big Ten Conference, and hired Wilce as its head football coach. Wilce's teams won a conference championship in 1916 with a 7–0 record, and repeated in 1917 (8–0–1) and in 1920 (7–1) when Ohio State played its first bowl game, losing the 1921 Rose Bowl to California, 28–0. Wilce coached the Ohio State Buckeyes football team for sixteen seasons, the second longest tenure in school history after Woody Hayes, compiling a career record of 78–33–9.

Medical and academic career

In 1919, Wilce received his medical degree. He retired from football after the 1928 season to practice medicine. Wilce completed postgraduate training in cardiology at University of Edinburgh in the 1930s and was a professor of preventive medicine at The Ohio State University College of Medicine, specializing in research and treatment of heart disease. He also served as Director of Student Health Services from 1934 to 1958. The John W. Wilce Student Health Center, built in 1969, is named for Wilce.

Wilce's "combination of medicine and football" and a sense of propriety that reflected his English heritage led him to try to reform the speech of his players on and off the field. He coined the phrase "intestinal fortitude." Haber (1955) records the story of the coinage, the idea first coming to Wilce on the way to a lecture he was to present on anatomy and physiology at Ohio State in 1916, his first use of the phrase in public in a lecture to his team, and how he began to hear the phrase used by others.

Honors and death

In 1954, Wilce was selected for enshrinement in the College Football Hall of Fame and was elected a member of the Ohio State Varsity O Hall of Fame in 1977. His academic honors include the Ohio State Distinguished Service Award in 1956. He died of complications of cardiovascular disease on May 17, 1963, in the Columbus suburb of Westerville, Ohio.

Of his departure from coaching he was quoted: "Football was becoming too much of a business. The game was being taken away from the boys. I was a faculty-type coach who believed educational aspects were more important than winning games."


Wilce was survived by his wife, Minerva Connor Wilce, sons Jay and James M. "Jim" Wilce (1922–1988), and daughters Roseanne Wilce Pearcy and Dorothy Wilce Krause, along with many grandchildren, amongst whom are the nationally known sports and outdoors photographer Anne Krause (1952–2006) and James M. "Jim" Wilce, Jr., a linguistic anthropologist at Northern Arizona University.[2]

Head coaching record

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs
Ohio State Buckeyes (Big Ten Conference) (1913–1928)
1913 Ohio State 4–2–1 1–2 T–7th
1914 Ohio State 5–2 2–2 T–4th
1915 Ohio State 5–1–1 2–1–1 4th
1916 Ohio State 7–0 4–0 1st
1917 Ohio State 8–0–1 4–0 1st
1918 Ohio State 3–3 0–3 9th
1919 Ohio State 6–1 3–1 2nd
1920 Ohio State 7–1 5–0 1st L Rose
1921 Ohio State 5–2 4–1 T–2nd
1922 Ohio State 3–4 1–4 8th
1923 Ohio State 3–4–1 1–4 T–8th
1924 Ohio State 2–3–3 1–3–2 7th
1925 Ohio State 4–3–1 1–3–1 8th
1926 Ohio State 7–1 3–1 3rd
1927 Ohio State 4–4 2–3 T–6th
1928 Ohio State 5–2–1 3–2 T–4th
Ohio State: 78–33–9 37–30–4
Total: 78–33–9



  • Haber, Tom Burns; "The Origin of 'Intestinal Fortitude.' American Speech 30(3):235-237.
  • Park, Jack; The Official OHIO STATE Football Encyclopedia (2002), Sports Publishing L.L.C., ISBN 1-58261-006-1

External links